प्रचलितोडुनिभैः परिपाण्डिमा शुभरजोभरजो ऽलिभिरादद ||
Pracalit’-uḍu-nibhaiḥ paripāṇḍimā śubha-rajo-bhara-jo ‘libhir ādade ||
The bees, ever clustering around the endless stretches of mālatī flowers which, soft as drops of fresh water, looked like quivering stars, turned pale in the deep, luminous pollen.
6.36 Ṥiśupālavadha – Māgha
It is the mālatī that is today the most popular form of jasmine in India, seen and more particularly smelt everywhere. It is so essential a part of many women’s everyday dress – they wear it bound in their hair – that it is sold by the arm length early in the morning, along with fresh vegetables and other daily essentials, wound into garlands on large shallow cane trays mounted on cycles. It is also a ubiquitous feature of most Indian weddings.
The white flower is equally omnipresent in kāvya, where it is again found decorating women’s hair and is sought by the bee for its scent.
The mālatī appears in several verses in connection with vasanta – the month of Madhu is said to be incomplete without it – and varṣā (the verse above is in fact taken from a description of the monsoon). It is though most strongly associated with śarad, another of her whitening agents.
The Amarakośa gives two synonyms: sumanī and jāti (or jātī), although the first, which isn’t found in Monier Williams or Apte, is probably fairly rare. Other Sanskrit names include saumanasyāyanī (saumansya is gladness and this synonym apparently refers to the mālatī’s ability to make the mind calm or clear), cetakī (‘the one that makes you think’) and hṛdaya-gandha, literally ‘the one whose scent travels to the heart’.
The word mālatī can also mean night or moonlight which may be to do with the fact that, according to Monier Williams, it flowers towards evening. It is also a popular girl’s name today, although that may owe more to the fact that Kālidāsa named one of his heroines Mālatī. The plant’s botanical name is Jasminum grandiflorum.
Modern Indian languages know it as:
- Hindi: jātī, camelī
- Bengali: mālatī, cāmeli, jāti, juī
- Marathi: camelī, jāī
- Gujarati: caṃbelī
- Tamil: cātippū, koṭimallikai, picci
- Mal: piccakamulla, piccakam
In English it is called common jasmine, Spanish jasmine or Catalonian jasmine.
The Pandanus database of plants describes it thus:
An evergreen shrub, white pleasantly fragrant flowers, grows all over India up to 2500m elevation, also cultivated as ornamental plant.